Organizations Must Address Employee Burnout to Survive in the Post-Pandemic Future, Says HR Research Firm McLean & Company

At a time when global concern about employee burnout is at a record high, McLean & Company, the trusted partner of HR and leadership professionals around the world, has released its newest blueprint, Plan to Extinguish Organizational Burnout. The data-driven research is designed to help business and HR leaders implement a multilevel approach to address and minimize burnout across their organizations, with the goal of creating a post-pandemic future without burnout.

“Common approaches to remedying burnout focus primarily on the individual’s responsibility to solve the issue of feeling burnt out, like practicing yoga or taking additional time off,” says Kelly Berte, director of HR Research & Advisory at McLean & Company. “While these approaches have value, they’re only a temporary coping method. Today, 60% of HR professionals indicate they are experiencing higher levels of work stress compared to three years ago, as highlighted in McLean and Company’s 2022 HR Trends Report.”

The findings are particularly concerning when we take into account that employees who consider their work stress levels to be manageable are 3.7 times more likely to be engaged at work (McLean & Company Engagement Survey Database, 2022).

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“To escape the infinite cycle of employees re-experiencing burnout, organizations need to shift the focus of burnout solutions from individual responsibility to the organizational level,” explains Berte. “It’s here that root causes are addressed and norms that promote employee health and wellbeing are fostered.”

The new research states that the common causes of burnout, adapted from Maslach & Leiter, fall under six core domains:

  • Workload – The number and complexity of work-related tasks or processes that require physical, mental, or emotional effort and are influenced by time pressures.
  • Role Clarity & Autonomy – The degree to which employees understand their job responsibilities, have control over how their work is completed, and feel they have adequate resources or training to succeed
  • Supervisor & Coworker Relationships – Internal relationships and the extent to which they promote mutual support, bidirectional communication, and cooperation.
  • Rewards & Recognition – Monetary and non-monetary rewards that result in employees feeling valued and recognized for their personal contributions to the organization.
  • Fairness & Equity – The perceived fairness of organizational processes and policies, such as work assignments, promotions, and pay increases.
  • Employee & Organizational Values – The perceived connection between an employee’s work responsibilities and goals and the organization’s mission/vision/values.

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To address these domains of burnout, McLean & Company suggests following its three-step plan:

  1. Identify root causes of burnout: Identify key roles and responsibilities in evaluating and addressing burnout. This includes gathering existing internal data to assess the current state of burnout and using McLean & Company’s Burnout Questionnaire, then considering the data by employee segment to identify high-priority groups. Conducting focus groups to capture employee voice and identifying priority root causes of burnout and their associated goals and metrics are also critical.
  2. Tailor solutions to address root causes of burnout: Explore solutions across the six burnout domains and create a shortlist based on employee needs and organizational resourcing constraints. Consult with stakeholders to finalize a list of solutions and, finally, create a roadmap to outline solution implementation and plan for the change management process.
  3. Create a future with minimal burnout: Revise organizational policies and programs to identify gaps and opportunities for minimizing burnout. Equip managers with the tools and training they need to identify and minimize burnout within their teams and develop a communication plan to promote solution uptake. Then create a plan to reevaluate and monitor organizational burnout. Also consider reviewing McLean & Company workshops that can assist with solution implementation.

McLean & Company’s research emphasizes that assessing burnout is an ongoing process, not a one-time effort. Triggers and signs of burnout will continuously surface across the workforce, creating the need for continuous reevaluation and iteration of solutions.

To support people leaders in their efforts to identify, address, and prevent burnout within their organizations, McLean & Company offers practical resources like Plan to Extinguish Organizational Burnout as well as various levels of support designed to meet organizations’ unique HR needs, including DIY toolkits, guided implementations, workshops, and consulting.

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